6 Steps to Slow the Aging Process

Most of us want to look and feel young for as long as possible. While we can't turn back the clock on our chronological age, a recent study shows that we can make lifestyle choices to prevent ourselves from aging too quickly.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Oslo and published in Archives of Internal Medicine, tracked nearly 5,000 British adults over a period of 20 years to look at how physical activity, diet, smoking, and alcohol consumption were related to mortality.

A score was calculated for each participant in relation to their health behavior over the 20-year period. Unhealthy habits included smoking tobacco, drinking more than three alcoholic drinks per day (for men) and more than two daily (for women), getting less than two hours of physical activity per week, and eating fruits and vegetables fewer than three times daily.

The researchers found that the combined effect of poor health habits and behaviors on mortality was substantial and made people who engaged in a combination of unhealthy habits and behaviors seem 12 years older than the people in the healthiest group.

Members of the healthiest group included never-smokers and those who had quit; women who had fewer than two drinks daily and men who had fewer than three; those who got at least two hours of physical activity weekly; and those who ate fruits and vegetables at least three times daily.

Public health researchers say that the findings don't mean that everyone who maintains a healthy lifestyle will live longer than those who don't, but it will increase the odds.

In order to beat the odds, start to incorporate the following healthy habits into your daily life.

6 Healthy Habits You Can Start Right Now

Quit smoking. Research has shown that smoking decreases your life expectancy. If you are having trouble quitting smoking, talk to your doctor about getting the appropriate support.

Reduce your alcohol consumption. Drinking too much alcohol has been associated with an increased risk of many health problems including cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, liver cirrhosis, and many cancers. Limit your weekly alcohol consumption (talk to your doctor about what is appropriate for you). If you suspect you have a drinking problem, talk to your doctor.

Get regular exercise. Start with just a few minutes of exercise a day. As time goes on, increase the length of your activity so that you are doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day, five days a week.

Eat more fruits & vegetables. Health experts recommend eating four to six servings of fruits and vegetables per day. According to the Centers for Disease Control, those who eat more generous amounts are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases including stroke, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer.

Meditation. Sit quietly for a few minutes every morning before you start the day. Focus on your breath. With eyes closed or softly focused on one point in front of you, slowly count the length of your inhalation and the length of your exhalation. Meditation has been shown to relieve stress and also help you manage it better when it does arise. 

Get adequate sleep. Experts suggest that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep a night. To help yourself get adequate sleep, to set a regular bedtime and stick to it.

Bottom Line

If you incorporate healthy habits into your daily life, you are setting yourself up for a longer, healthier and more energized life.


Kvaavik, Elisabeth, Batty, David G. Ursin, Giske, et al. "Influence of Individual and Combined Health Behaviors on Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in Men and Women." Archives of Internal Medicine. Apr 2010; 170: 711 - 718.

"How Many Fruits and Vegetable Do You Need?" Centers for Disease Control. Web. 10 May 2010. http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/

Rethinking Drinking. National Institutes of Health. Web. 10 May 2010. http://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov